I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend who is a parent of a baseball player. He rebuked my suggestion to have his son try a few free classes at a martial arts gym, citing how much fun baseball is. I reflected on this and have since come up with many reasons as to why martial arts is infinitely more fun than baseball.
The fact that performing an art is more interactive makes this a one-sided argument. The fact that baseball lacks action compounds the advantages of training in martial arts as opposed to playing baseball.
This theory is based on using modern day methodology to teach martial arts such as boxing, Olympic wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, submission wrestling and Muay Thai. The comparison will not be using an antiquated model of martial arts training that dedicates classes to training katas and having students relentlessly perform repetitive kicking and punching.
Studying martial arts is superior to playing baseball because of the simple numbers game. In martial arts there are only two participants. In baseball, there are many more.
The most exciting part of the game is obviously batting. One only bats one out of nine times at best. In some leagues and at some levels, it is even less because the rule is to go through the entire team each time as opposed to using three outs. Also, not every player starts, so substitutes bat even less.
When one is not batting, they are in the field. How boring is that? It is more probable than not that in one inning in the field, the fielder (obviously outside of the pitcher and catcher) will not touch the ball.
A pitcher striking out the side is great for the team but not so engaging for any of the fielders looking to be participating in a fun sport. How many little leaguers have been seen pulling grass and sitting down in the field with their minds adrift?
Admittedly, pitching is different. The pitcher is involved in every aspect for half of the game. They have a very exciting and pivotal role in the game. Yet, a pitcher will often not even participate in more than one third of the team's games. In leagues where they do pitch more frequently, it is not uncommon for them to pitch two or three innings, not even bat and then be done for the game.
A martial artist is involved in every instant of the entire contest. This is why it is an art and not a sport. One is a part of the creation process and is not relegated to being an observer. It is unfathomable for a boxer to wave to his family in the crowd or for a wrestler to drift off and daydream as outfielders (at the kid's level) are so prone to do.
Renowned Sports Illustrated journalist and columnist Rick Reilly once sought to satisfy his curiosity as to how much action actually occurs in a baseball game.
Reilly recorded the amount of time the ball was in play in a Major League Baseball game in 2000 and determined that the ball was in play for a mere 12 minutes and 22 seconds in a game that lasted 3 hours and 15 minutes. Remember that this "action" is divided amongst a minimum of 18 players.
In comparing this to the martial arts mentioned, the time is only split between two participants. The amount of action is dependent on the athletes.
Yes, there may be times when a wrestling match lacks action or there is stalling in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but baseball and martial arts are different, as one is not inherently void of action. A martial arts competition will always carry the potential for excitement, and while not every match will be robust with activity, that will be the result of the participants and not the sport.
In baseball, the athletes have less autonomy over their individual role. The coach will determine their position in the batting order and their position in the field. Having less of a say in what one does has an inverse relationship with one's enjoyment of an activity.
In martial arts, one is on their own on the mat or in the ring. Yes, the coach has developed their skill, instructs during the match and helped develop a game plan, but the athletes make decisions and act upon their own reactions. The coach will not admonish a student for successfully hitting a double leg when the plan was to go for a single leg, nor for successfully landing a hook when the plan was to jab.
However in baseball, one could very easily find oneself playing right field or being the catcher when their dream is to be shortstop or a pitcher. Furthermore, one could be asked to bunt or to sacrifice oneself. In martial arts, if the competitor is having success and performing with correct technique, the coach will afford them that prerogative to use their own style.
In baseball, the batting order position determines stats. Those slotted in the 7-9 positions often find themselves with far fewer opportunities to score runs and to acquire runs batted in. This does not happen in martial arts. The coach cannot take away one's opportunity to succeed.
The only control employed by a coach that might be negative is that they often dictate in which categories people compete. A lighter individual might have to compete in a heavier category for the sake of the team. This might negatively impact one's win-loss record.
In baseball, a single player (non-pitcher) will often play a minimal role in determining the outcome of a game. For example, a player could go 4-of-4 with no errors and lose. Their performance was impeccable, but they go home without the satisfaction of victory. In martial arts, the best performance is rewarded with the glory of victory.
An amazing aspect about martial arts is that one can always evolve. A martial artist can practice and utilize a flying scissor sweep or attempt a flying arm bar in a competition. Whereas in baseball, it is just hitting, running and fielding. Perhaps one works hard on their bunting or a hook slide but that does not compare to the infinite amount of amazing moves a martial arts can learn, develop and actually apply.
Another challenge to enjoy baseball is the fact that the success factor is out of the players’ hands. In order for one to have success batting, they need the pitcher to throw them a ball that is capable of being struck. Intentional walks and being pitched around can eliminate a players opportunity for success. In order to make a great fielding play, the ball, which acts independently from the fielding players, needs to be hit at the right place and time.
In martial arts one does not depend on external factors to perform amazing feats; rather, they use science and create their own opportunities for success. The artist paints the story of the performance and is a more active participant and is not a victim of circumstance.
To hit a walk-off home run must be an awesome feeling, but one must always have that opportunity be presented to them. One cannot use any technique to create a heroic bottom of the ninth scenario while a knockout, pin or submission comes from using intelligence and technique to have personally created that success.
Furthermore, a martial artist is never out of the match until it ends. A late second knockout or submission erases any deficit. In baseball, the players lose interest and become discouraged once they have succumbed to what they perceive to be an insurmountable deficit.
Outside of the movies, a coach rarely instructs a fighter to intentionally break the rules to injure an opponent. In baseball, beaning a batter and brushing a batter back are considered sound and fair strategies. As well as spiking to break up a double play or running over the catcher at the plate.
One could also expound upon the benefits of learning respect and humility that is entwined with martial arts but that is difficult to quantify. Additionally, I will not discuss the obvious health benefits to martial arts over baseball nor safety, as it seems to be a point for another debate. The focus here is which is more fun to participate in.
Therefore, martial arts are far more fun to train in. The fact that one is master of their fate and the one-on-one thrill of being singularly responsible for one's outcome make it far more engaging and exhilarating. I hope to share this article with my friend and hope that he will give his son a chance to experience the joy in learning a martial art.